Varadkar and Micheál Martin in Northern Ireland for political meetings

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Credit: PA

Both the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Tánaiste Micheál Martin will spend the day in Northern Ireland for a series of political and business meetings.

It will be Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's first visit to Belfast and first meetings with Northern Ireland's political leaders since he returned to office last month.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin will meet the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in Hillsborough.  He will then travel to Armagh to visit the Secretariat of the North South Ministerial Council, and attend the launch of a new Shared Island Civic Society Fund.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is also due to arrive in Belfast on Thursday ahead of meetings with political parties.

It will be his first visit to Northern Ireland since June 2022. He is expected to stay in the region until Friday.

Meanwhile the Tanaiste will meet victims and survivors of the Troubles.

The Irish government has said the dual visit is a "clear sign of its commitment to resolving the difficulties around the Protocol and helping ensure that the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement can once again operate effectively across all three strands."

The Taoiseach's relationships with unionists in particular have been difficult in the past, and his meetings today are being billed as an opportunity for him to "engage at first hand with both political and business leaders on key political issues and on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and to stress the importance of making progress on an EU-UK agreement and restoration of the NI Executive."

While Micheál Martin's visit to the Secretariat of the North South Ministerial Council is also a recognition that the body, set up under the Good Friday Agreement, has not met since November 2021 because the DUP has refused to attend in protest over the Protocol.

The Tánaiste's trip will show support to those working there.

Yesterday the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly met political and business leaders in Belfast.

However, his visit became embroiled in a row when Sinn Féin refused to attend a roundtable meeting with Mr Cleverly because its party president Mary Lou McDonald was not invited to attend.

An invitation had been extended to the party's leader at Stormont Michelle O'Neill, but Sinn Féin chose not to go.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.